Design Competition

The Planning and Development Department is seeking architects and design professionals to submit schematic designs and concepts for an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) under the current City of Houston’s current building code and development standards.

Funded by the 2021 AARP Community Challenge grant, the ADU/HOU Design Competition will ultimately provide a set of plans available for Houston homeowners to build an ADU on single-family residential lots where development regulations and deed restrictions allow.

Deadline Extension - All submissions are due by September 20, 2021

Qualifying designs will be entered into an online poll for a public juried voting period. Qualifying designs will also be featured and fully credited to the participating designers and teams in a virtually accessible ADU design book. All submissions must be original designs. Top designs will be featured in City of Houston Planning and Development Department communications and designers/teams will make design presentations in early 2022.

The design competition winner will be awarded $3,000, provided by the AARP grant, to produce construction documents. The design will undergo a preliminary plan review process by the Houston Permitting Center. These plans will then be made available to all Houston homeowners wishing to construct an ADU saving the homeowner time and money.

Design categories include:

  • Sustainable/Resilient
  • Garage
  • Detached
  • Attached
  • Affordable

Important Dates

  • Monday, August 9 – Registration Opens
  • Friday, August 27 – ADU Design Competition Q&A Session
  • Friday, September 3 – Registration Deadline
  • Monday, September 20 – Submissions Deadline
  • Monday, October 4 – Public Voting Opens
  • Friday, October 15 – Public Voting Closes
  • Friday, October 29 – Winners Announced

Designers and Design Teams

  • ADU/HOU is open to all design professionals, architects, senior or graduate level college students studying architecture, urban planning and/or community development
  • Registration is open to groups of three or less, design firms, or individuals.
  • Individuals and teams must register prior to entering their final submissions. September 3, 2021 is the registration deadline.

Designers and Design Teams

  • All submissions and meetings will occur virtually.
  • Designers/Teams will need to prepare final design presentations using the templates provided – Narrative/high quality jpeg Images (3-5) / Pages (InDesign) (Vector File)
  • Designers/Teams should propose conceptual ADU designs.
  • Deliverables can include 3D and/or 2D drawings, in addition to floor plan concept.
  • Designers/Teams should include their conceptual approach and a narrative summary of the team’s design approach, not to exceed one page.
  • Each team will be provided a packet that will give background of the grant objectives, COH current design standards, and any additional judging criteria that will be used.

Livable Places

The Livable Places a initiative is a continuation of the Planning Department’s effort to update portions of Houston’s development codes to enhance walkability, affordability, and equity.


The City of Houston Planning & Development Department is hosting a mini-series of free virtual workshops focused on Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). These workshops are funded by a 2021 Community Challenge Grant from AARP.

ADUs, also referred to as garage apartments, mother-in-law cottages and granny flats, are above the garage or detached, free-standing units on single-family lots. ADUs provide another housing choice for Houstonians in neighborhoods where deed restrictions allow and can be great solutions allowing people to age in place or provide housing for caregivers, young couples and empty nesters.

Workshop 2 - How to ADU | HOU

Learn the Steps to Build an ADU

The City of Houston Planning & Development Department, funded by a 2021 Community Challenge Grant from AARP, is hosting a series of virtual workshops focused on Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs).

The second workshop, scheduled on Thursday, September 28, 2021, 6 p.m. goes more in depth into the steps necessary to build an ADU. Speakers from Rice University, Prairie View A&M, City of Houston Public Works Department and ADU builders and developers will speak on design principles, selecting an architect, how to walk through the permitting process, as well as respond to questions asked at Workshop 1 - Benefits and Basics.


Past Workshop 1 - Benefits and Basics - August 26, 2021

This free workshop featured Kol Peterson, author of “Backdoor Revolution: The Definitive Guide to ADU Development” and renowned accessory dwelling unit advocate, teacher, and developer. This workshop is perfect for a homeowner considering whether to build an ADU.

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